Gebbers Farms had built the housing and done the complex paperwork to bring in foreign guest workers under the federal H-2A program. Workers had landed in Seattle and were en route to the company’s North Central Washington orchards when someone at the company asked, “Do they have bedding?”
“Everything was ready. Workers were getting ready to show up,” said Jon Wyss, government affairs director for Gebbers Farms, among the largest growers of apples and cherries in Washington. “We went to every Wal-Mart in about a 300-mile region and bought every single sheet.”
The point: There’s more to H-2A than you realize, and just when you think you have everything covered, think again.
More and more growers are turning to the complex program to bring in workers, but those who are just now signing on have the added benefit of learning from those who’ve gone before.
Several growers who have been using the H-2A program, labor contractors and a state labor official shared their thoughts on the program and offered tips during the Washington State Tree Fruit Association annual meeting in December.
The two biggest topics centered on housing and making the program more affordable for growers.